The Column of Lasting Insignificance: August 1, 2009
Research volunteers, healthy male and female marihuana smokers (age 21-50) needed to evaluate the effects of marihuana on mood and performance. Live on a research unit at the NYC Psychiatric Institute for 10-12 days. Compensation for time: $415-$1,015….
— back page ad in the Village Voice
MORE THAN 75% of Americans think the so-called war on drugs hasn’t worked and won’t work in the future according to The American Prospect which asserts that almost half the people in the country have admitted having tried illegal drugs. “We are already at the tipping point societally in terms of ending the drug war,” says Sanho Tree of the Center for Policy Studies. “But the people who have to act on this are Congress, and they won’t do so because they have to face re-election. A lot of these politicians have fairly reptilian brains, you know.” Of the 2.3 million behind bars — more than in any other country — almost one quarter are there for drug offenses while “pot-smoking popular-culture figures are everywhere.” TAP forecasts that change will have to come from the states, many of which are liberalizing their marihuana laws. It expresses optimism about the appointment of Seattle’s former police chief Gil Kirlikowske as the nation’s latest “drug czar” who once declared “We’re not at war with the people of this country,” and calls illegal drugs “a public health problem where law enforcement is a key player.”
THE ELUSIVE AND mostly invisible Thomas Pynchon will be back in the news next week when his L.A.-based novel about a weed-toking detective, and the plot to kidnap a billionaire developer, is published on both sides of the Atlantic. Inherent Vice is set in L.A. in the late Sixties when Pynchon lived there writing Gravity’s Rainbow which Wired described as “the Moby Dick of rocket science novels.” The magazine (which refers to Pynchon as “the paranoid poet of the information age”) includes in its current issue a map of the author’s early haunts. They include Benedict Canyon, scene of the 1969 Manson murders, and the 1893 Bradbury Building downtown which is widely known for its role in the sci-fi classic film Blade Runner.
WERE BUSINESS SCHOOLS RESPONSIBLE for our economic crisis? Maybe to some extent, in the opinion of the New Republic. “But across the country,” comments the Utne Reader, “they are grappling with the possibility that they have been instilling generations of students with a naive faith in free markets, teaching them to focus on short-term profits and justifying some of the more outrageous executive-compensation schemes.” The end result was to suspend criticism and go along with the business community.
AN URGENT PLEA went out to the publishers of the Washington Post and the New York Times to erect a wall around their web content and allow access only to subscribers. No one can act if the Post and Times do not,” writes David Simon. “You must act together…inform(ing) readers…it is a requirement for acquiring the contents of the news organizations that spend millions to properly acquire, edit, and present that work.” Simon, a former Baltimore Sun reporter-turned-TV producer (The Wire) writes in Columbia Journalism Review that the decline of newspapers is so severe that it may be too late for some to survive, but that starting to charge for content may be the only solution for the rest. He blames short-sighted management — “by and large, reared in boardrooms rather than newsrooms” — for focusing on short-term profit over the years rather than re-investing in the product.
THE WILCOCK WEB: Burma’s universally admired heroine Daw Aung Sa Suu Kyi could hugely advance the cause of the country’s freedom if she could escape long enough to make a worldwide tour….“It’s not enough to drill a well and then walk away,” says a report by the World Water Forum, complaining that $300 million spent on drilling wells in Ghana and Mali has been wasted because villagers can’t afford to maintain them…..The touristy Somerset village of Wookey Hole is auditioning witches this weekend, offering a $75,000 job to live in its famous cave…. Michigan has become the fifth state to adopt the concept of the Living Library which presents human “books” who attend functions to answer questions about their expertise ….Deft Definition: Cashtration — The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time….Tasmania’s opium fields have been invaded by a surplus of wallabies which are eating the crop (used for pharmaceuticals)….And Asia Times reports that switching Afghan farmers from opium crops to saffron could bring in ten times the income….….“Every national park on the west coast” has been infiltrated by marihuana growing, charges Terrain, the eco-news magazine of Berkeley’s Ecology Center….”Listed in Smart Money’s Underpaid column is Amazon’s Jeff Bezos whose $1.3million salary is relatively low but supplemented by the $8.2billion value of his 23% stake in the company ….Britain’s wretched Justice Secretary Jack Straw who sent Chile’s Pinochet home in 2000 because he was supposedly too sick to stand trial, has denied parole to 80-year-old Ronnie Biggs, surviving (but barely) Great Train Robber (1963) who remains in jail speechless after a series of strokes….Mandatory work projects instead of jail sentences would save every state millions of dollars in prisoner upkeep….“I plant trees for people,” says Tom Selleck. “Oak trees, sycamores, California peppers. On my own, I’ve probably planted over 2,000 trees. And you know, they eat carbon” ….“A gateway drug for vegetarians” is what restaurateur Ron Silver calls bacon in Detail’s piece about the delicious porcine pleasure whose sales have risen 42% in the past year…. As part of its campaign to end world hunger, Heifer International (that organization that enables you to buy a goat for a poor community) publishes an inspiring magazine, WorldArk (www.heifer.org)….- “The wise and brave dares own that he was wrong.” — Benjamin Franklin (1706-90)
Flashback /Aug 4, 2007
THE WILCOCK WEB: Major pharmaceutical companies are researching the cannabis plant, seeking pain-killing and anti-nausea compounds that can be patented. Simultaneously they are spending millions on PR hoping to keep the plant illegal.